Hong Kong schools

Acting principal of troubled Tuen Mun school seeks to reassure parents ahead of new academic year

Hing Tak School set to appoint new head teacher after former principal was removed from post over complaints that enrolment numbers had been exaggerated

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 5:28pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 August, 2017, 6:33pm

The acting principal of a primary school embroiled in a series of controversies over governance has dismissed concerns about enrolment after its Primary One intake for the coming school year dropped.

Sung Cheuk-fan also promised to win back confidence from parents by working to improve the institution’s grades.

Hing Tak School in Tuen Mun was put in the spotlight earlier this month after complaints by teachers that former principal Chan Cheung-ping exaggerated enrolment numbers to secure more funding emerged. A total of 21 students were absent for up to two years between 2014 and last year but remained on the student roster.

But Chan, who was dismissed by the school’s board a week ago for severe mistakes, including not reporting pupils who were absent for an extended period and not following procedures for hiring and promoting teachers, argued that the pupils were on leave for health or family reasons.

Speaking after an introductory session for parents of Primary One pupils, Lui Ki-cheung, an Education Bureau-appointed member of the school’s board, noted there would be 26 classes this year, of which four are for Primary One pupils. He added there were currently 85 such pupils registered to the school.

While the number of Primary One classes dropped from the previous year’s five and seven the year prior, Sung dismissed concerns over falling student numbers.

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“In the short term, the confidence level of parents has been hit by a bit, but with our teachers’ caring education and passion, I believe the confidence level will rise again,” he said.

“In the coming days we aim to raise the grades of our pupils and improve in other aspects of caring for them, which I believe will help with our reputation.”

When Chan was principal, she helped to increase the number of classes at the school. But some teachers complained that Chan had asked them to go to the Shenzhen border to hand out fliers to promote the school.

Lui also revealed that 30 Primary One pupils transferred out of the school before August 8. But as of Saturday, 28 Primary One pupils from other schools had transferred to Hing Tak.

Lui also gave an update on the principal selection situation as interviews for the post began on Saturday. The post has been vacant since Chan’s dismissal on Friday last week.

Lui said they had interviewed some of eight shortlisted candidates from 34 who applied. He added the principal selection committee aimed to decide on a candidate on Saturday in time for a board meeting on Wednesday, so as to have the new principal on board by the first day of school on Friday.

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A Shenzhen mother of a pupil who is beginning classes at Hing Tak said she is still “very worried” about the situation at the school, but had no choice but to send her child there due to its proximity to the Chinese city.

“I am concerned that [the governance issues] would affect the teaching, but we live in Shenzhen, so this school is more convenient than a school in Kwai Hing, which we were initially allocated,” she said.

She added that having the government step in gave her more assurance that the school would be back on track soon.